The GIBB Award for Sustainable Development
Winner: ITC Zeneca Ltd.
Through the hybrid seeds it develops, produces and supplies, ITC Zeneca has helped to extend the green revolution to hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers outisde the wheat and rice growing plains of Nort India. It has enhanced national farm productivity and prosperity with a vision of growing for a better future.
For every rupee spent on the new seeds, a farmer can reap up to 5 rupees of crop. Most of the farmers buying the seeds have landholdings smaller than 5 acres. Hybrid seeds combine different parental lines to secure increases in yield, better quality and resistance to stresses.
ITC Zeneca if supplying maize, sorghum and hybrid cotton and rice seeds in Southern India, and sorghum and pearl millet in the dry areas of the North-West. But its biggest success has been with sunflower. Sunflower is often grown on rainfed, drought-prone land. The premier ITC Zeneca sunflower tolerates moisture stress; so it offers farmers a high yield of seed with a high content of oil. The Indian Council for Agricultural Research's national trialling system showed ITC Zeneca's sunflower producing 1,200 kilogrammes per hectare, compared with a national average of 450kg for other varieties.
About 80 per cent of sunflower seeds bought by farmers in some drought-prone areas in Central India are from ITC Zeneca. The company has an extensive network of agriculture graduates and field assistants to help farmers grow better crops. It employs 500 people in all.
ITC, an agribusiness affiliated to British-American Tobacco, formed a joint venture in 1994 with Zeneca (formerly part of Britain's ICI) to research, develop, produce and market hybrid eeds for Indian farmers. ITC Zeneca has recently changed its name to Advanta India.
It has seven research stations which develop hybrids suited to the special needs of farmers in different agro-climatic zones. The hybrids are tested in an Indian Council for Agricultural Research programme for three years and also in the company's own research and trialling network.
ITC Zeneca had to decide where to produce its hybrid seeds, since Indian laws stopped it aquiring a large area of land for the purpose. It adopted the idea of seed villages, contracting farmers in these villages to produce its seed. Now, over 5,000 village farming families take part in this scheme.
Deepak Mullick, a 25-year ICI veteran who is managing director of ITC Zeneca, says that the seed village approach starts with a meeting with village elders and leaders. The company offers a scheme to the village farmers under which they will produce its seed from the parental-line seed it supplies. The company offers technical guidance and agrees to buy the whole crop of seed at a pre-determined price much higher than that for a commercial crop. The agreement between the village and the company prevents any cheating and any cross-pollination.
ITC Zeneca also helps with community centres for recreation and literacy work. "The seed village concept is a win-win model," says Deepak Mullick, one of India's foremost professionals in agribusiness.
ITC Zeneca Ltd 309 Raheja Chambers, Museum Road
Bangalore, 560 001, India
Tel: (91 80) 5594524 Fax: (91 80) 5594525